Being a new farm/ranch wife, with no experience in rural life, I connected, and felt sympathetic for cows. I liked them; they had big brown eyes, were great mommas, and lived by rigid rules or died.
They looked at me when I jogged, and came to me when I called, “Here Bossy.”
They have a hard life, and they are not dumb.
When a heifer calf is born, the rancher is initially disappointed she’s not a bull calf. If her color and body type meet with approval, meaning she could have good calves, she is kept for breeding. If not, she is sold.
When barely a year old, she is turned in with the bull because she needs to get pregnant. When the herd is pregnancy tested, those not with calf get sold.
If pregnant, she is now called a first-calf heifer, and the rancher moans and groans because she needs extra help birthing a baby, after all, she is a baby herself. First-calf heifer calves often need to be pulled. This involves wrapping a rope or chain around the two little hoofs when they first appear from the cows bottom. The rope or chain is then hooked to a pickup or tractor and the driver slowly backs up, literally pulling the calf from the cow.
I softly spoke to cows in labor, and pleaded, “Wait for her to have a contraction before you pull!” My voice was not heard.
If the cow or heifer didn’t have a calf with the right body type, or markings, she was culled from the herd and sold. If she had a good calf, the credit was given to the bull.
When calves were a few months old, they were weaned, physically taken from their momma. For days, both cow and calf bawled and bawled. Weaning happened when a cow could not continue nursing because she needed to have sex again with the bull, and she couldn’t have a good calf if pregnant and feeding a baby. Cash cow applies here because she had to be pregnant every year or sold. Sold meant being loaded onto a semi-truck and hauled to the sale barn. If she was young, someone might give her a second chance to produce calves. If old, she would be sold to the slaughter house.
The rule for cows, “Start when half-grown and produce good calves every year, or you are dead.”
The bull, on the other hand, lays around all year and eats. He needs energy to have sex with every cow in the pasture.
I’m so thankful I’m not a cow.
Now you know why I don’t eat beef.
Linda Lee says
I too, have heard the pathetic bawling of calves being weaned. I hadn’t really considered the full story but I believe you have laid it out accurately.
Jennifer Goble says
Thanks Linda for the visit. Yes, poor babies and their mama’s.